The baffling phenomenon has put existing theoretical models on their head, and astrophysicists are puzzled as to what is creating such a regular excretion of material from within the bowels of this supermassive black hole. According to the paper titled, ‘Nine-hour X-ray quasi-periodic eruptions from a low-mass black hole galactic nucleus’, the energy erupts from the black hole every nine hours and last for one hour, the exactness is startling scientists.
Astro-physicists Giovanni Miniutti at the Centro de Astrobiologia, Madrid, Spain, who was working at the project said: “Alternatively, the eruptions could be due to the interaction of the disc material with a second body, another black hole or perhaps the remnant of a star previously disrupted by the black hole, although never before observed.”
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Mr Miniutti said: “The eruptions could be due to the interaction of the disc material with a second body, another black hole or perhaps the remnant of a star previously disrupted by the black hole.
“The X-ray emission comes from material that is being accreted into the black hole and heats up in the process.
Black hole is in the centre of a distant galaxy
“There are various mechanisms in the accretion disc that could give rise to this type of quasi-periodic signal, potentially linked to instabilities in the accretion flow close to the central black hole.”
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The mystery is still unexplained as is the nature of the celestial body orbiting the black hole’s event horizon.
Giovanni Miniutti said that the phenomenon was, “completely unexpected”.
He added: “Giant black holes regularly flicker like a candle but the rapid, repeating changes seen in GSN 069 from December onwards are something completely new.”
Further observations, performed with XMM-Newton as well as NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory in the following couple of months, confirmed that the distant black hole was still keeping the tempo, emitting nearly periodic bursts of X-rays every nine hours.
The astrophysicist have labelled this new discover, “quasi-periodic eruptions”.
Although never before observed, Giovanni and colleagues think periodic flares like these might actually be quite common in the Universe.
Black hole is pulsating light
It is possible that the phenomenon had not been identified before because most black holes at the cores of distant galaxies, with masses millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun, are much larger than the one in GSN 069, which is only about 400 000 times more massive than our Sun.
The bigger and more massive the black hole, the slower the fluctuations in brightness it can display, so a typical supermassive black hole would erupt not every nine hours, but every few months or years.
This would make detection unlikely as observations rarely span such long periods of time.
Quasi-periodic eruptions like those found in GSN 069 could provide a natural framework to interpret some puzzling patterns observed in a significant fraction of active black holes, whose brightness seems to vary too fast to be easily explained by current theoretical models.
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Mr Miniutti said: “We know of many massive black holes whose brightness rises or decays by very large factors within days or months, while we would expect them to vary at a much slower pace.
“But if some of this variability corresponds to the rise or decay phases of eruptions similar to those discovered in GSN 069, then the fast variability of these systems, which appears currently unfeasible, could naturally be accounted for.
“New data and further studies will tell if this analogy really holds.”
Black hole fact file
The surge of charged particles are of very high temperatures.
They are so powerful that the energy outputted can be seen by observers on Earth.
The astrophysicists that discovered the black hole have put evidence into the research paper, ‘Nine-hour X-ray quasi-periodic eruptions from a low-mass black hole galactic nucleus’.
Mr Miniutti, one of the heads of the project, works out of the Centro de Astrobiologia, Madrid, Spain